Tuesday, October 30, 2012

{read: the end of the world as we know it} The Age of Miracles

This story about the end of the world is more of a coming-of-age story that happens to be set in a time when the days on Earth are slowly getting longer, causing all sorts of other changes: There's not enough sunlight for the crops, the nights are so long that they get frigid, the tides roll in over the beachfront homes, the magnetic field of the Earth is changed, and the atmosphere lets the sun's radiation in.

I liked the contrast of the narrator growing up and encountering the normal adolescent challenges like falling in love at the same time that the earth is dying. In the post-apocalyptic category, this definitely trumps The Leftovers.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Random House, 2012)
My rating: 3 stars

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

{read: coming of age, finally} The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac by Kris D'Agostino

I enjoyed this story of Calvin Moretti, a 20-something guy with a college degree, tons of student debt, and no real plan for his life now that he's dropped out of graduate school. He's living at home, trying to figure out what to do with his life.

Yet aside from his own personal struggle, his family is faced with a series of challenges and he has to decide whether to step up and help them or opt out and save himself. Will the small amount of money he's saved up make a difference in the end? Is it important to make the gesture anyway? Will he be stuck forever at home? Should he try to make it on his own? Can he stand living at home for one more minute? He wrestles with all of these questions and more as events unfold around him.

I was afraid this would end up being whiny, but the narrator's voice ended up being mostly engaging and sometimes funny. The conversations and arguments around the dinner table and the description of some of the scenes with the mother and grandmother are hilarious. This is a great read that made me laugh out loud. Yet if the first line, "I work with retards," offends you, it's probably not for you. I was immediately drawn in.

The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac by Kris D'Agostino (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2012)
My rating: 3 stars

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

{read: historical fiction} The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

This was another book on my fall TBR list, and I was eager to read it after hearing Chris speak about it on his book tour this summer. Pieces of it are autobiographical (he is Laura's brother) but the story itself, which revolves around the Armenian genocide that the Turks committed in WWI, is fictional. (It's not his grandparents' story that he's telling.) The genocide, however, is true, and it's amazing that we as a society have erased this from our collective conscience while we remember the Holocaust. The details of the genocide in the book are horrifying, but the storyline kept me turning the pages.

Some of the suspense was lost, however, because of the way the story was told. The reader knows from the beginning that Armen and Elizabeth both survive and get married, so the story is more about how they manage it. I thought the story would had more suspense if I hadn't known that, but it would have changed the entire structure of the plot, which is Laura (the granddaughter) investigating her grandparents' history. The book also felt a little stilted to me, pushing me away. Laura's sections are told in first person, but the sections about Armen and Elizabeth are in third person. Also, truth be told, I didn't find Laura to be that interesting as a character.

I think this is an important book to read because we should learn about the Armenian genocide and, for me, fiction is a more pleasant way to learn history than reading nonfiction. However, as a story, this was only average for me and didn't measure up to his previous work.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian (Doubleday, 2012)
My rating:  3 stars

Monday, October 8, 2012

{crafts} Halloween Balloons

Pumpkin Balloons from MarthaStewart.com

From felt fiends to sinister silhouettes, these handmade touches are sure to give your home an extra-spooky feel this Halloween. A gaggle of helium-filled jack-o'-lantern balloons hovers near the refreshment table. The simple features are drawn onto the inflated balloons with permanent marker; choose an assortment of geometric shapes that are easy to create freehand.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

{read: Danish thriller} The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen

I was eagerly anticipating The Absent One after enjoying the first one in the Department Q series, The Keeper of Lost Causes, and it made my fall TBR list. While it was enjoyable, it wasn't the pageturner that I was anticipating. I felt like I was plodding through it, waiting for the action to pick up.

Carl, the new head of Department Q, returns from vacation to find that a case with a conviction has landed on his desk. This is odd because Department Q, located in the basement, was created to investigate cold cases, not ones that were already solved. But the more he and his trusty sidekick Assad investigate, the more they realize that all is not as it seems. On the personal side, Carl has his own problems to contend with — a shooting that left one of his colleagues dead and the other paralyzed from the neck down, and for which he feels guilty. To add more drama, Carl and Assad get a new colleague, Rose, who has feminist views, and Carl begins to realize that Assad has a complex past.

One complaint I had about this book, in addition to its pacing, is that a female character, Kimmie, is motivated by a vicious gang rape in her past.  This is a predictable plot device, and I expected more from Adler-Olsen.

All of that being said, I'll still read the next one in this series when it gets translated.

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Dutton Adult, 2012)
My rating: 3 stars

Monday, October 1, 2012

{crafts} Marbling


Here is a tutorial with directions on marbling. You just need a special marbling paint to get started, but the results are fabulous. The original tutorial can be found at http://www.minieco.co.uk/i-marbling/.

saw these chocolate wrappers on Oh Joy ages ago and they completely changed my mind about marbling (I always used to think marbled paper looked a bit dull and assumed you needed loads of equipment).

It turns out it’s not so hard…and the results can be really colourful (Yay!).
- – – – – – – -
You will need:
// Marbling paint. I used Marabu Easy Marble (not a sponsored plug!)
// A tray (I used a recycled foil food container)
// Paper (make sure it fits inside your tray)
// Water
// Cocktail sticks (a twig will do!)
// White spirit for cleaning up (or cooking oil…see comments section below for details)
// Newspaper
// An old top or Apron
- – – – – – – -
1. Fill your foil container with some water….a few inches is fine. Then pop some drops of marbling paint onto the water. Limit your palette to three or four colours.
2. Give the water a swirl with a cocktail stick.
3. Shake a few more drops into the water if you fancy!
4. Once you are happy with the pattern gently lower your paper on top of the water and leave it for a few moments.
5. Then carefully lift the paper off the surface of the water.
6. Pop your design, face up, on some newspaper to dry.
- – – – – – – -
  • Use a scrap of cardboard to ‘scrape’ the top of the water in-between each go. That will get rid of any paint residue from your previous attempt.
  • I used coloured paper. Because of this, one of the marbling colours I chose was a transparent colour (crystal clear), that way you get to see the colour of the paper too.
  • If you are doing this with kids I would definitely recommend using some gloves and an apron…it gets a bit messy.
  • Have fun!! I found marbling incredibly relaxing so grab a bit pile of paper before you start…you will get through it.
  • When your paper has dried, press it under some heavy books to make it flatter & smoother! Make sure you sandwich it between greaseproof paper just in case it leaves a mark.
  • If you want some more inspiration then check out my Pinterest marbling board ^_^
  • This particular marbling paint is oil-based so you will need white spirit to clean up any spills.